There are a number of reasons why we may not feel creative at any particular moment. If you read my previous article “8 Simple Steps to Becoming a Successful Author and Why You Should Start NOW!” you know the story of starting with the “upper left brick.”
There is another creative block people often run into I refer to as “the little voice that won’t.”
Maybe you are familiar with it.
You have a sudden flash of inspiration.
Then, before you have your ideas thought out the little voice in your head (or even possibly from a colleague or friend) starts to criticize the idea.
Or just as bad, the voices start getting into all the realistic details of how to bring the plan together.
Critical and Realistic perspectives are absolutely essential to bringing an inspiration into successful fruition. The problem is not one of the critical and realistic voices; the problem is one of timing.
Our brains and/or well meaning friends try to help us do all three activities simultaneously. As a result, our creativity is dampened. The critical and realistic voices feel annoying instead of helpful.
The process needs to be sequential and recursive.
Years ago in an NLP practitioner training, I watched Robert Dilts do a great presentation on what he called the Disney Creativity Strategy.
This method works for individuals, departments or large organizations.
Two Important Points to Remember
First you must recognize that being a Dreamer, Realist, and Critic require 3 distinct mindsets. Trying to do all three at the same time only frustrates and slows down the creative process.
Second, the Realist and the Critic are as important to the creative process as the Dreamer. They should be utilized; not dismissed or ignored.
Creating Harmony Amongst the Voices
Have you ever been in a poorly run brainstorming meeting where ideas get shot down as soon as they are presented? Does this ever happen in your head?
The key to creating harmony between the Dreamer, Realist and Critic, involves:
- Making sure every voice is heard
- Making sure every function is exclusive of the others.
- Making sure the environment for each voice is conducive to the role of the voice.
While sounding a little “left brained” you should plan to be creative. Start by setting up three distinct areas. These areas may be as elaborate or simple as your situation allows.
In some cases it might mean just moving from an easy chair, to desk, to a kitchen table. I have done this by simply using three differently colored tablets.
For corporations it might mean building three unique rooms or areas that that are designed to support each specific role.
- The Dreamer’s area will be a comfortable environment. It should include all the things you or your team will need to be creative.
For example, you may have flip charts, colored pens, white boards, inspirational posters, awards, comfortable furniture, bright lights, appropriate music, and so on.
- The Realist’s area will be less comfortable and more practical. It could include calculators, budgets, lists, editing tools, good lighting, reference books and articles.
Basically you want this area to provide the Realist’s with all the tools they need to fully analyze the ideas brought in from the creative area.
- The Critics area will be smaller, uncomfortable, without chairs. The purpose of this environment is twofold.
First, to put people on edge a little bit so they are more likely to speak their criticisms.
And second, to be uncomfortable enough that no one wants to hang out to bitch or complain.
Let’s look at each at each area.
Start in the Dreamer’s area. If you have an idea or need to come up with an idea, the best place to do it is here.
If you are working alone, use this space to fully expand your idea. No holds barred. In this location there is only one rule.
NO REALISTIC OR CRITICAL THOUGHTS ALLOWED!
If realistic or critical voices enter into your thoughts, STOP what you are doing and acknowledge the voices. Remind them that they will be heard very soon, and to please be patient and wait.
In the creative process the role of the Realist is to evaluate an idea based on the criteria of a real world. If the idea was a supersonic blimp, the Realist would send the idea back for revision based on the violation of the laws of aerodynamics.
Or if there were a really profitable idea, but it involved selling contraband or robbing banks, without a rock solid getaway plan, the Realist’s job is to point out the risks and send the idea back for revision.
There is only one rule for the Realist’s Room.
NO DREAMER OR CRITICAL THOUGHTS ALLOWED!
It is not uncommon, when faced with reality, to immediately start creating solutions. This is not appropriate in this area. Nor is it appropriate for the Critic to start slamming the idea as being stupid or whatever.
If the Dreamer or Critic insists on disrupting the voice of the Realist, STOP what you are doing and go the appropriate area to jot down the ideas or criticisms. Leave the creative or critical notes in the appropriate area.
If the Dreamer’s idea passes the Realist test, then move into the Critic’s area. If not, send the idea(s) back to the Dreamer’s area for replacement or refinement. Let the Dreamer focus on creative solutions.
The role of the Critic in the creative process is to be negative. Their role is to think of everything that can go wrong or be perceived badly.
This is the Realist on steroids. Output from this area might be in the form of “This will never work because . . .”
It is no fun being a Critic in this capacity, but it is absolutely necessary to fully develop successful ideas. I have personal experience with ignoring the Critic inside me.
When I wrote my second book, The PC Easy Reader: Because Your are NOT a DUMMY or an IDIOT! I thought I was really on to something. Even the Realist in me was happy. Who wouldn’t want learn something without having to buy a book suggesting they were an idiot.
My critical voice kept trying to tell me it was a bad idea because PCs make people feel like dummies and idiots. Besides, my cover was plain and the subject matter fully discussed.
I didn’t listen to my inner critic and ended up giving away 1000 books I couldn’t sell.
There are only two rules for the Critic’s Room.
- NO DREAMER OR REALIST THOUGHTS ALLOWED!
- DON’T STAY HERE TOO LONG.
The Creative Process
With your areas established and full agreement on the rules you are ready to begin creating.
- Start in the Dreamer’s area, create wildly without constraints.
- Take best idea(s) to the Realist area and test them against reality. Ideas that pass muster get forwarded to the Critic. Ideas that fail are returned to the Dreamer for revision.
- Criticize the Ideas from the Realist. If ideas can’t be shot down, let them pass. If they are shot down, return them to the Dreamer for revision.
- Cycle ideas through the process numerous times until they stand strong in the face of reality and criticism.
This process sounds complicated and time consuming but it is not.
It is actually more efficient. Once each voice knows it will be heard; it stops interfering in processes where it doesn’t belong.
The end result is the development of highly creative, well tested ideas with better chances for survival.
If the Realist or Critic, insist on disrupting your creative thoughts, STOP what you are doing and leave the creative area. If the insistent voice is a Realist, go to the Realist’s area and write down its concerns and leave the paper in the area for the future steps.
If it is an insistent critical voice, go stand in the Critic’s area and jot down the criticisms and leave the notes there for future steps.
Once the concerns have been addressed, go back to your Dreamer’s room. Continue dreaming up new ideas.